Tackling illegal traveller campsites in Wetherby

Traveller campsite by side of A1 in Wetherby on Tuesday, April 8. Picture: Paul Kirby
Traveller campsite by side of A1 in Wetherby on Tuesday, April 8. Picture: Paul Kirby

A group of travellers were photographed setting up camp in Wetherby last Tuesday.

Though several caravans and mobile homes were visible on the bridle path at the side of the A1 where it passes by the town near Wetherby Racecourse, the group are believed to have left the location the following day.

This was, however, the latest in a series of camps established in the town and the surrounding area in recent years.

A field and children’s play area had to be closed off to the public last year after travellers set up an illegal camp and left rubbish and human faeces in the area.

Wetherby Town Council was forced to shut off the Mason Field area on Hallfield Lane after the group, who were believed to be travelling south after visiting the annual Appleby Horse Fair, had left.

At the time Wetherby Coun Alan Lamb (Con) made moves towards restricting access to public land.

Speaking this week he said: “I was contacted pretty quickly by residents as soon as the travellers arrived and we managed to get the camp moved on pretty quickly. I believe they left on Wednesday.

“We are trying to be a bit more proactive in our response to illegal camp sites. Just last week the council approved spending to restrict vehicular access on public sites, so it will be very difficult for vehicles we don’t want to get access.

“The real problem people have is not with the travellers, but when they leave such a disgusting mess behind - that is what really riles people. If travellers took the time to clean up after themselves and didn’t access places where they are not allowed, people wouldn’t have a problem.

“It is not a problem that is going to go away, but we have got the right response set up to deal with it. To the best of my knowledge there are now no encampments in Wetherby at this time.”

The local inspector of the Outer North East Police Team based at Wetherby said there have been a number of groups of travellers in the Wetherby area over recent weeks but none in situ currently that they have been made aware of.

He did acknowledge, however, that this is a changing situation and said the team will continue to monitor and respond to any concerns.

Inspector Paul Dwyer said: “West Yorkshire Police across Leeds district has a joint working policy with Leeds City Council which guides how we interact with members of the travelling community and local communities. Local police action within Wetherby will follow those guidelines.”